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An uninvited guest 'the yellow dust storm' 2006-04-18 23:16
The severe yellow sand storm called 'Hwangsa' sweeps across the Korean Peninsula every spring mostly in March and April, carrying clouds of loose soil, dust and even industrial toxic heavy metal pollutants such as Al, Pb, Hg, Cd, Si, Fe etc, causing various respiratory diseases, and skin and eye ailments as well as heavily damaging croplands, livestock farming and industrial fields.

It originates from the dry Gobi Taklimakan desert in China, the deserts in Inner Mongolia, the yellow soil highlands of the Yellow River in China and Manchuria etc. The yellow dust storm is developed by strong winds generated when the low atmospheric pressure passes through those dry areas, and blows out across the Korean Peninsula, Japan and the Pacific, sometimes even drifting as far as the west coast of the United States. Once 'Hwangsa' is developed, it generates fine dust as much as around one million ton, and among them about 46,000 tons ~ 86,000 tons are assumed to be being accumulated in Korea.

The worst yellow dust storm since 2002 struck the entire Peninsula on Saturday, April 8, 2006 and prevented people from going out at the weekend. The visibility was only one tenth of its average rate. The harmful toxic substances included in 'Hwangsa' can cause various allergic diseases and aggravate bronchitis and cause pinkeye, sinusitis and ear infections. People at high risk include young children, the elderly, anyone with heart disease or those with a lung disease such as asthma; they are advised to stay indoors.

'Hwangsa' prevents crops and broadleaf trees from growing up by blocking up their pores, and could damage airplane engines and disrupting airborne communication systems thus canceling flights, and harm sensitive precision product lines such as semiconductor etc. And therefore, it can not be regarded as only a natural phenomenon but should be considered it as a disaster.

After the aforesaid worst dust storm hit the Peninsula, NEMA (National Emergency Management Agency) proclaimed that from next year it would include the problem of 'Hwangsa' into the National Disaster and Safety Management Basic System which manages for prevention and countermeasure against disasters like typhoons and floods etc.

According to UNCCD (UN Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa), deserts or ongoing desertification regions in China are around 29% of its entire territory. Even if Chinese government has been encouraging forestation in the northwest and the northern areas for preparing the coming 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the ethnic minorities who live mostly in the northeast still cut down trees for fuel, pasture and cultivate lands indiscriminately.

It is not the ultimate solution just by planting trees and encouraging forestation for preventing the yellow dust storms; there should be some way of support in securing reliable energy source for Central and Eastern Asian residents for their heating and cooking. In order to work out the problem of yellow dust storms fundamentally, planting trees and securing and providing reliable energy to those residents should be done together.

The government should analyze the ingredients of the yellow dust storms thoroughly and should do its best in providing reliable forecasting news beforehand by equipping with accurate forecasting systems for atmospheric monitoring, and also should do its every effort to solve the problem by closely collaborating with the related countries through international organizations.

※위 글은 경희대학교 영자신문 5월호에도 실릴 예정입니다.




by Lee Jung Sung (jslee@ecojournal.co.kr)   

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